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Carbon and the molecular diversity of life


states that organic molecules come from a life force independent of chemical or physical laws


holds that physical and chemical laws can account for all natural phenomena

carbon atom

has 6 electrons, forms 4 covalent bonds


shape when a carbon has four single bonds

carbon skeleton

form the skeletons of most organic molecules, vary in length, shape (chain, branched, ring), number and location of double bonds, and other elements covalently bonded to available sites


organic molecules consisting only of carbon and hydrogen (ex. fossil fuels), hydrophobic


compound with the same molecular formula but different structural arrangements (different properties)

structural isomers

differs in arrangement of what is bonded to what (usually single bonds)

geometric isomers

same sequence of covalently bonded atoms but differ in spatial arrangement due to inflexibility of double bonds


isomers that are mirror images of each other, left and right handed versions which differ in their biological activity

functional groups

a specific configuration of atoms commonly attached to the carbon skeletons of organic molecules and usually involved in chemical reactions, mostly hydrophilic

hydroxyl group

a hydrogen atom is bonded to an oxygen atom, which in turn is bonded to the carbon skeleton of the organic molecule. Name: alcohols. is polar as a result of the electrons spending more time near the electronegative oxygen atom

carbonyl group

consists of a carbon atom joined to an oxygen atom by a double bond. Name: ketones (the group is within a carbon skeleton), aldehydes (the group is at the end of the carbon skeleton). found in sugars

carboxyl group

when an oxygen atom is double bonded to a carbon atom that is also bonded to an -OH group. Name: carboxylic acids, organic acids. has acidic properties

amino group

consists of a nitrogen atom bonded to 2 hydrogen atoms and to the carbon skeleton. Name: amines. acts as a base. compounds that contain both this group and a carboxyl group are called amino acids.

sulfhydryl group

consists of a sulfur atom bonded to an atom of hydrogen. Name: thiols. "cross linking" of 2 sulfhydryl groups helps to stabilize protein structure, "cross linking" of cysteines in hair proteins maintains the curliness or straightness of hair

phosphate group

a phosphorus atom is bonded to 4 oxygen atoms; 1 oxygen is bonded to the carbon skeleton, 2 oxygens carry negative charges. Name: organic phosphates. Contributes negative charge to the molecule of which it is a part, has the potential to react with water which releases energy (ATP)AT


stands for adenosine triphosphate. consists of an organic molecule called adenosine attached to a string of 3 phosphate groups. an important source of energy for cellular processes. the primary energy transferring molecule in the cell

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